Home > For the Captain: Create an innovation culture > Lead brainstorming by taking the ridicule

Lead brainstorming by taking the ridicule

While taking a facilitator to run brainstormings is indeed a good idea, it does not in itself eliminate the typical risk that the presence and traditional behaviour of the leader will hamper the session. So, it has become common place advice to recommend that leaders do not take a prominent role in brainstormings, and take the back seat instead.

That may be pragmatic advice, but it also strikes me as quite conventional. Thinking laterally, is there no better way to positively harness leadership in brainstorming?

One of the simplest, yet most powerful form of leadership is leading by example. If, as a leader, you want brainstorming to generate truly novel outside-the-box ideas, why not lead brainstorming by example and come up with the craziest possible ideas? The kind of ideas that will raise inside you the fear of ridicule. One of the brainstorming rules is that ideas should not be censored or criticised. Since you’re the leader, people will be all to happy to abide by the rule and not criticise you.

Instead, they will… follow your lead. For the ideas that make you fear ridicule are the ones that will expand the space within which others will feel safe and empowered to come up with slightly less crazy, yet radical enough ideas without fearing ridicule. 

Does it sound like leadership to you? feedback welcome.

  1. January 28, 2010 at 14:15

    Leadership by example always seems to work for me, although often it takes time for people to notice the examples you are setting. This is a perfect implementation of the practice and a great idea!

    • January 28, 2010 at 15:07

      Hi James, thanks for your comment. I agree that it may take time for people to notice the example you’re setting. One thing that helps shortening this time lag is to communicate about setting the example at the same time we’re doing it: “walk the talk and talk the walk”. In the case of leading brainstorming by raising crazy ideas, it is always possible to label one’s ideas by saying something like: “since we want some really outside-the-box ideas in this brainstorming, here is one …”

  2. January 28, 2010 at 15:18

    I’d rather pull a chain than push a rope.

    The need (for innovation) already exists in every situation/organization. The challenge is only to recognize, allow, organize, and enable that good intention (equitable representation).

    There is no hierarchy in that scramble to “survive” and the results can and should benefit all stake-holders (equitable remuneration).

  3. January 28, 2010 at 18:46

    Well spoken. I have to research more on this as it is really vital info

    • January 28, 2010 at 20:29

      Hi teeth whitening, thanks for the comment. Let me know what your research yields. Cheers.

  4. March 3, 2010 at 04:57

    I like what you did here in that you took the common approach and decided to flip it on its head. We used this technique at a recent brainstorming session we had and found it to be a great motivator for new ideas.

  5. March 18, 2012 at 14:23

    It’s like the dance in the park video and the experience I had in Hard Rock Cafe. The fear of expulsion or ridicule was hardly present in both instances. But what was more striking is the followers you gather slowly but surely!

    Leading crazily can also set the pace for innovation.

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